Couche-Tard takes stake in cannabis retailer

One of Canada’s biggest convenience store operators is moving ahead on its stated goal of getting into the retail cannabis business.

Edmonton-based cannabis retailer Fire + Flower announced Wednesday it has issued a $25.99 million debenture, convertible to a 9.9 per cent ownership stake, to Quebec’s Alimentation Couche-Tard.

The Laval-based firm said its planned investment “will provide Fire + Flower with additional capital to further accelerate their expansion strategy.”

However, Couche-Tard said it has also received warrants which, if exercised in full, would allow it to boost its stake in Fire + Flower to 50.1 per cent.

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Fire + Flower today operates 15 cannabis stores in Alberta, six in Saskatchewan and two in Ontario, with plans in place to open four more shops in Edmonton, one in Whitehorse and one at Swan River, Man. It also runs a wholesale distribution arm in Saskatchewan and a digital retail platform under the name HyFire.

Fire + Flower on Wednesday also began trading on the TSX under the ticker symbol FAF, levelling up from the TSX Venture Exchange.

“Through this strategic investment, we reinforce our intention to become a key player in North America’s cannabis industry,” Couche-Tard CEO Brian Hannasch said in a release.

“We are excited to see what we can achieve together with Fire + Flower, as we further expand in Canada and look to leverage our presence in the United States and beyond.”

Couche-Tard is a major convenience store operator across Canada and the U.S. and in central and eastern Europe. In recent years it began rebranding its Canadian Couche-Tard and Mac’s convenience stores outside Quebec and all its stores elsewhere under the Circle K banner, while keeping the Couche-Tard banner on its Quebec stores.

“Combining Couche-Tard’s expertise in scaling retail stores with Fire + Flower’s retail experience and proprietary HiFyre digital platform positions our company extremely well to capitalize on new cannabis markets as they emerge,” Fire + Flower CEO Trevor Fencott said in the same release.

Couche-Tard in February announced a multi-year agreement with Ontario-based cannabis producer Canopy Growth. That deal so far includes a trademark license agreement with the operator of a London, Ont. store under Canopy Growth’s Tweed banner. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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